In Virginia’s U.S. Senate race, Republican George Allen has campaigned as a savior of coal jobs and has assailed Democrat Tim Kaine for supporting environmental regulations that threaten those jobs.
Now Kaine is hitting back with a television ad that plays up Allen’s ties to an energy company that is embroiled in a dispute with mine workers over pension and health benefits. Peabody Energy has contributed $23,500 to Allen’s campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and also paid him consulting fees.
Peabody has been sued by miners who claim the company must cover pension and health insurance obligations that were transferred to a spinoff company that has filed for bankruptcy. The Kaine ad features a miner declaring that Peabody “put our pensions at risk, pensions we coal miners earned with sweat and blood.”
“George Allen represented Peabody Energy,” said the miner, identified only as “Jeff” in the ad. “They’re one of his biggest donors.”
“Allen knows where his bread is buttered,” the miner says. “He’s for the big boys.”
“I’m proud of my record of support for coal miners across the Commonwealth who put in long hours to support their families, and whose industry is critical to our economic and energy future,” Kaine said in a news release. “As senator, I will fight against attempts by large corporations to pull the rug out from men and women by going back on promises made for benefits like medical care after decades of service. My priority in Southwest will always be the well-being and safety of Virginians.”
Allen’s campaign said Kaine “is scraping the bottom of the barrel with a TV ad that desperately attempts to attack George Allen’s pro-energy record.”
“The fact that no one seems to remember Tim Kaine’s role in the Wise County coal-fired plant doesn’t keep him from trying to take the credit others deserve,” the campaign said in a statement. “But there’s only so much Tim Kaine can say to cover over his record of supporting a Cap and Trade national energy tax that would virtually ban coal, eliminating Southwest Virginians’ jobs and turning their communities into ghost towns. Tim Kaine has stood by President Obama and radical environmentalists as they advance regulations to shut down coal-fired plants and then he has the audacity to tell Southwest Virginians “don’t try to weaken” regulations that are destroying their livelihoods. Southwest Virginians know that George Allen has always been a true friend of coal who knows that his job is to fight for their jobs.”
For more on the politics of coal in the 2012 election, here’s Mason Adams’ story in Monday’s edition of The Roanoke Times.
– Michael Sluss